Let’s Get Moving: Study Shows Little Physical Activity for Chicago Teens

March 22, 2010

By Rosa L. Ramirez, HSC Policy & Outreach Coordinator 

Chicago’s youth could be at increased risk for chronic illness as adults, reports a new study by Children’s Memorial Research Center revealing that the percentage of Chicago teens participating in the recommended amount of daily physical activity is stunningly low. Why is this? What does this mean for the future of Chicago teens? And what can we do to reverse the trend?

“Chronic diseases don’t develop overnight. And so what we see here is a group of young people whose habits reflect a walk toward higher rates of chronic disease,” explained Maryann Mason of the Child Health Data Lab, to Chicago Public Radio.

To collect data for the study, teens in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system were surveyed about the time they spent on the computer, watching TV, or being physically active. The CDC recommends about 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Less than one in three teens in the CPS system meets this recommendation for physical activity, compared to nearly half of students in the rest of the state. And researchers also say that as Chicago youth get older, the percentage of teens getting enough exercise will continue to drop, resulting in higher risk for chronic illness as adults.

The reasons are complex and often inextricably linked to other issues.

Increasingly our lives have been made easier and less active because of technological advances and modern conveniences. The commonplace sedentary lifestyle coupled with concerns about transportation, opportunities in a child’s area and expense are often reported as common barriers to being physically active.

First Lady Michelle Obama is urging the country to increase kids’ levels of physical activity, as part of her Let’s Move initiative to reduce childhood obesity in a generation. She argues that today’s children need safe routes to walk and ride to school, parks, playgrounds and community centers where they can play and be active after school, and sports, dance or fitness programs that are exciting and challenging to keep them engaged.

Programs such as those offered by Chicago Run, Get Healthy Chicago, Purple Asparagus, Urban Initiatives, Walk Across Illinois and the UIC Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion are well equipped to offer free or low-cost services to schools located throughout the city to get kids moving and being physically active.

Let’s get moving!